ISSN 2398-2969      

Acute infectious tracheobronchitis


Synonym(s): Kennel cough, canine infectious tracheobronchitis; Canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD


  • Common upper respiratory tract disease due to multiple infectious agents, complicated by management and patient factors.
  • Cause: certain viral and/or bacterial agents.
  • Signs: sudden onset harsh cough.
  • Diagnosis: history, signs.
  • Treatment: symptomatic, antibiotics.
  • Prognosis: usually good.
    Print off the owner factsheet Kennel cough (acute tracheobronchitis) Kennel cough (acute tracheobronchitis) to give to your client.



Predisposing factors


  • Close contact or shared airspace in kennels and/or difficulty screening new arrivals, frequent introduction of new animals, especially non-vaccinates.
  • Immunocompromise, eg young animals, concurrent disease, parasites, poor husbandry.
  • Exposure to high pathogen load, or concurrent exposure to multiple different pathogens.
  • Stress, eg change of housing (barking in boarding kennel).


  • Inhaled infective aerosols and/or fomites → colonize nasal, tracheal and bronchial mucosa → inflammatory reaction → mucosal swelling and increased production of viscous mucus; inflammation contributes significantly to the tissue damage and clinical signs.
  • Coughing is caused by inflammatory stimulation of mucosal cough receptors and the need to clear thick mucus from airways.
  • Hacking cough associated with gagging because mucus is difficult to clear.
  • Often initiated by virus; predisposes to secondary infection with bacteria. B. bronchiseptica is also a primary initiator; this organism is adapted as a primary respiratory pathogen producing enzymes that paralyze cilia movement and inhibit chemotaxis and intracellular killing by macrophages.
  • Damage to cilia of respiratory epithelium → colonization by bacteria.
  • Coughing → further respiratory damage and secondary bacterial invasion.
  • Occasionally(1-5% of cases) → progression to lower respiratory disease, ie bronchopneumonia if animal with immune compromise or underlying pulmonary pathology.
  • Occasionally leads to chronic bronchitis Chronic bronchitis , often associated with persistence of Bordetella bronchiseptica, with coughing that continues for months.


  • Incubation 2-18 days:
    • Canine Adenovirus II = 2-5 days.
    • Canine Herpes virus = 2-5 days.
    • Canine Distemper = 14-18 days.
    • Canine influenza virus = 2-7 days.
    • Bordetella bronchiseptica = ?
    • Canine Parainfluenza II = ? (not pathogenic alone).
    • Mycoplasma = ? (not pathogenic alone).
  • Signs may persist for up to 3 weeks.
  • Bordetella may remain in respiratory tract for up to 3 months and can be found in the upper airways of normal dogs; ciliary paralysis may persist for several weeks and intracellular survival of the organism both contributes to carrier state.


  • Highly contagious - more likely when dogs closely confined and/or with inadequate ventilation (includes humid weather and gentle air movement in open-air kennel runs).
  • Requires close contact (physically or temporally) with infected dog (because transmitted by infected aerosolizd organism, nose-to-nose contact, or on hands of handlers or environmental fomites). Airborne spread in kennels. Bordetella can survive in moist environment for several weeks. Most viruses are fragile and not persistent in the environment.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Pecoraro H L, Bennett S, Huyvaert K P, Spindel M E, Landolt G A (2014) Epidemiology and ecology of H3N8 canine influenza viruses in US shelter dogs. JVIM 28 (2), 311-318 PubMed.
  • Anderson T C, Crawford P C, Dubovi E J, Gibbs E P, Hernandez J A (2013) Prevalence of and exposure factors for seropositivity to H3N8 canine influenza virus in dogs with influenza-like illness in the United States. JAVMA 242 (2), 209-216 PubMed.
  • Jeoung H Y, Song D, Jeong W S, Lee W H, Song J Y, An D J (2013) Simultaneous detection of canine respiratory disease associated viruses by a multiplex reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay. J Vet Med Sci 75 (1), 103-106 PubMed.
  • Ellis J, Anseeuw E, Gow S, Bryan H, Saib A, Goji N, Rhodes C, La Coste S, Smits J, Kutz S (2011) Seroepidemiology of respiratory (group 2) canine coronavirus, canine parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella bronchispeptica infections in urban dogs in a humane shelter and in rural dogs in small communities. Can Vet J 52 (8), 861-868 PubMed.
  • Hilling K, Hanel R (2010) Canine Influenza [Review]. Compendium Contin Educ Vets 32 (6), E1-9, quiz E9 PubMed.
  • Erles K, Brownlie J (2008) Canine respiratory coronavirus: an emerging pathogen in the canine infectious respiratory disease complex [Review]. Vet Clin North Am Sm Anim Pract 38 (4), 815-825 PubMed.
  • Radhakrishnam A, Drobatz K J, Culp W T, King L G (2007) Community-acquired infectious pneumonia in puppies: 65 cases (1993-2002). JAVMA 230 (10), 1493-1497 PubMed.
  • Crawford P C, Dubovi E J, Castleman W L, Stephenson I, Gibbs E P J, Chen L, Smith C, Hill R C, Ferro P, Pompey J, Bright R A, Medina M J, Influenza Genomics Group, Johnson C J, Olsen C W, Cox N J, Klimov A I, Katz J M & Donis R O (2005) Transmission of equine influenza virus to dogs. Science 310 (5747), 482-285 PubMed.
  • Erles K, Toomey C, Brooks H W & Brownlie J (2003) Detection of a group 2 coronavirus in dogs with canine infectious respiratory disease. Virology 310, 216-223 PubMed.
  • Keil D J & Fenwick B (1998) Role of bordetella bronchiseptica in infectious tracheobronchitis in dogs. JAVMA 212, 200-207 PubMed.
  • Toshach K, Jackson M W, Dubielzig R R (1997) Hepatocellular necrosis associated with the subcutaneous injection of an intranasal Bordetella bronchiseptica-canine parainfluenza vaccine. JAVMA 33 (2), 126-128 PubMed.
  • Thrusfield M V, Aitken C G G & Muirhead R H (1991) A field investigation of kennel cough - efficacy of different treatment. JSAP 32 (9), 455-459 VetMedResource.

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